Some say that marriage does not work; looking at all the infidelities of movie stars and public figures, one can see why. Some say that celibacy in priesthood does not work; looking at the news about a few Catholic priests over the past few years, one can see why. We say that people cannot keep promises, so it must be time to rethink it all. Paul Simon, of the famous duo Simon and Garfunkel, sang in The Boxer “I have squandered my existence for a product full of mumbles, such are promises.” One can almost feel the melancholy mood, sadness and emptiness present in such words. Are promises worth keeping? Can we keep them?
The recent challenge to traditional marriage by same sex marriage advocates says that marriage is what we make of it. In some way this is true, yet marriage also makes something of us, namely more human, more balanced, more loving human beings. We are hasty these days to remake marriage in our own image, when we should, in fact, remake ourselves in the image of marriage: faithful, fruitful, committed for life to someone, something greater than ourselves.
Recent headlines of a popular priest and a retired archbishop revealing their sexual affairs might also make us think that celibacy is a problem that we should remake in a new way. Yet if we think more deeply we find that celibacy is not the problem, we are. Because of our own disordered hunger for attention, for sexual favors, or simply because of our very human and very noble desire to love and be loved, promises of celibacy are hard to keep.
Nonetheless, with all the recent talk about marriage, celibacy, or promises being the problem, the fact remains that when marriage does work it is quite beautiful, when a priest lives a life consonant with his calling, his life is quite beautiful, when promises are kept, even in the most trying of times, our life’s story is better.
When we make the effort to keep our promises, even if we fail at times, this is the “good stuff” that inspires country music songs. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9-r5qtq2hM)
We fall short of our ideals, we are human; but this does not mean that we should stop striving for happy marriages, happy celibate lifestyles or to be happy promise keepers. As old fashioned as they may seem, making promises is still a good way to live. Are they just “a pocket full of mumbles”? I think not, but let us hope that with God’s help we can keep our promises, and give country music troubadours something more to celebrate
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)